Thursday, 19 January 2017

'Go and Read a Children's Book' - A Response to Mark Gatiss - Lucy Coats

Being angry makes me exhausted -- and I am angry about a lot these days: the way Brexit is being handled by the government, the fact that on Friday the nominal 'leader of the free world' will be a narcissistic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic bigot... All that, but this is a children's book blog, and what has made me angry in our particular sphere is Mark Gatiss's comment that those who thought the plot of the current BBC series of 'Sherlock' was too complicated should (and I quote):
"Go and read a children’s book with hard pages if you don’t want to be challenged."
Image of Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Gatiss from BBC Radio Times

Oh dear, Mr Gatiss. Really? Those who have read this blog for a while will remember that I had a few things to say when Martin Amis made his famous comment that he "might well write a children's book if [he] had a serious brain injury.'  I have a few more things to say now.

Leaving aside anything else, this is an incredibly patronising and arrogant attitude to have towards his viewers, (many of whom, quite incidentally, can spot a series of massive plot holes a mile off). Gatiss went on to say: "We’re making the show we want to make. We don’t make it a certain way because fans are pressuring us." That, of course, is his privilege, but to drag children's books into the critical argument is entirely unnecessary, and yes, it makes me angry when a man who purports to be intelligent equates children's books with a lack of the same quality. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: some of the most intelligent and thoughtful writing in any sphere can be found within children's books, whether with hard pages or not. If Gatiss doesn't realise that, then he needs to educate himself out of his creative ivory tower.

PS: And while I'm on a roll (sorry - spoilers here, and my feminist teeth showing) -- the tired old trope of the madwoman in the attic/long lost wicked sister, and the saving of the day via a handy Sherlock hug (despite the fact that she's recently murdered five people)? Seriously, Mr Gatiss? I thought we were long past that kind of lazy writing, not to mention being past the one-dimensional 'evil female' characterisation that was poor Eurus's lot. Ho hum.

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review
Lucy blogs at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure (No. 1 UK Literature Blog) 

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17 comments:

catdownunder said...

Oh good grief - someone give the man any of the excellent books described here and make him read it!

Catherine Butler said...

I missed that... What lazy thinking!

Katherine Langrish said...

Lazy thinking, lazy writing - they go together. Off the top of my head, I would prescribe him Russell Hoban's 'The Mouse and his Child'. But the way men of his type get around excellence in genres they don't expect to find it is to say,'Oh well, but it's not *really* a children's book'...

John Dougherty said...

I love Sherlock, generally, and after the cliffhanger of episode 2 was really looking forward to the series finale, but boy was it disappointing. Not too complicated at all - in fact, it's the complications of Sherlock that make it compelling viewing, and here they were substituted, as you say, by tired old cliches

Eurus was set up to be a fascinating character, but turned out to be a typical bonkers TV maniac. And the solution being that she just wanted a cuddle... well, it's been said already here, but, yes, lazy writing. And as Cathy says, doubly disappointing to see such lazy writing being defended with such a lazy argument.

Steve Gladwin said...

If Mark Gatiss or Steven Moffat could write coherent plots half as well as a lot of children's writers they might produce something batter than some of those half arsed ideas which purport to be drama. Suspension of disbelief, plot construction, convincing, well rounded characters and above all female roles that can exist independent of the male ones are all things writers for children and YA do a lot better. I admire Mark Gatiss in particular, but much as I enjoyed 'Coupling' and a few odd episodes of Who and Sherlock, SM tends to either wreck or at least compromise most things he gets his paw print on. Sherlock - I hate to say it - needs a good editor!

Susan Price said...

Completely agree with Lucy and everyone who's commented. I stopped watching this series of Sherlock after the first episode, not because I was 'challenged', Mr. Gatiss, but rather the reverse. I found it cliched and predictable and - after the excellent first series - I was disappointed.
And now Gatiss is just as predictable, lazy and cliched in his response to criticism. I love a lot of his work and had expected better of him.

Jan Carr said...

Preach it, sister.

Mary Hoffman said...

Of course I am totally with Lucy here but it's no good recommending excellent children's novel if by "a children's book with hard pages" Mark Gatiss meant a board book.

He was being deliberately rude and arrogant but not, I feel, in the same way as Martin Amis. And yes, the plot of the last eposode sucked and was full of plotholes.

Enid Richemont said...

Think you've all expressed everything I feel about this ignorant statement, so I'll just add: aaaaaaargh!

Lucy Coats said...

Thanks, everyone -- I just felt it was important to say something. If we on ABBA don't stand up to defend children's books, who will?

Penny Dolan said...

Exactly,Lucy!

Jane Clarke said...

Oh yes! Thank you for another spirited defence.

Steve Gladwin said...

In fact on reflection I rather fear Mark Gatiss has become Mycroft!

Kate Walker said...

I stopped watching Sherlock a while ago when it felt like a bad episode of Dr. WHo, which is for children and is written by same chap.

Maya Alexander said...

And now Gatiss is just as predictable, lazy and cliched in his response to criticism. I love a lot of his work.

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Hilary said...

Well said, Lucy.

Rowena House said...

Well said! Gatiss's comment had the hallmarks of a temper tantrum. No doubt because we knew - and he knew - his plot was naff. Shame. Just wish we got that sort of money for a duff idea.